Calling legislation opposed by Wal-Mart and a handful D.C. lawmakers a job killer, the D.C. Republican Party on Friday urged Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, to veto the Large Retailer Accountability Act. Passed by an 8-5 vote on Wednesday, the legislation would force retailers occupying in excess of 75,000 square feet or parent companies that gross $1 billion or more to pay their employees a minimum of $12.50 an hour. The current rate is $8.25.
While the legislation, if enacted, would not effect such large grocers as Giant Food and Safeway, it would effect new big box chains, such as Lowe's, Shopper's Food Warehouse, Wegmans and Wal-Mart, and retailers that are not unionized.
In fact, Wal-Mart informed D.C. officials in January that it would not build three of six proposed D.C. stores if the legislation became law.
In a statement pointing out that the language of the bill "is aimed squarely at Wal-Mart," DCGOP Executive Director Robert Turner asked, "If the Council were sincere in its efforts to produce a living wage, then why is this bill targeted only to one company? It's a straw man that will have negative consequences for the District. "
Mr. Turner continued, "We strongly suggest Mayor Gray do what is in the best interest of the District as a whole, and not just the labor unions. Anyone who says that the 'District doesn't need retailers, retailers need the District' clearly does not grasp the concept of economics."
Party Chairman Ron Phillips drove home the loss of potential jobs and urged a mayoral veto: "We need to find ways to bring more businesses large and small to the District, especially east of the [Anacostia] River. With the passage of this bill, Wards 5, 7 and 8 will lose access to hundreds of potential jobs. A plan like that serves no one. We hope the Mayor will do the right thing and veto this jobs-killing bill."
D.C. officials, residents and other stakeholders have long complained that most of the communities east of the Anacostia, where Wal-mart had planned to put two stores, were food deserts.
While there are food retailers in those communities, fast-food and prepared-food options proliferate the market.
The mayor is weighing his options, and his office said Friday that the legislation will likely reach his desk by mid- or late next week